The peculiarity of Rowling’s books is that, as in life’s reality, good and evil tend to penetrate each other, replace one another and intertwine so closely that it is challenging for the hero to distinguish one from the other. Consequently, the choice of his path is complicated enough as well. It seems crucial that Rowling is not afraid to show readers the transparency of the boundaries between good and evil. As any person, Harry Potter, following his life path, relies on examples of behavior patterns available to him, which in one way or another correspond to the categories of good and evil, and the hero’s own choice influences the decisions made by his environment. The battle between good and evil in the Harry Potter series occurs not only on the superficial level but also within the characters themselves; Potter’s beneficial influence on his environment allows other heroes to gain strength in the inner victory of good over evil.
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Good and Evil within the Harry Potter series
The main archetypes, the embodiment of good and evil, are two cult personalities. They are Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Lord Voldemort, a great dark sorcerer with tremendous magical powers who almost achieved immortality with the help of black magic, the enemy of Harry Potter. Dumbledore is Harry’s direct mentor, an example to follow. Dumbledore has tremendous magical power and unshakable authority. He is not alien to a sense of humor, he is always on the side of truth and goodness, and he is wise and merciful and permanently protects the weak and the offended (Plath 108). All these traits are reflected in the formation of the character of Harry Potter; the boy seeks to follow the beliefs and ideals of Dumbledore, to behave the same way.
However, in addition to the apparent similarities in the characters of Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, it is worth mentioning here the evident use of biblical themes and motives. The moral and ethical values cultivated in fairy tales do not contradict themselves but rather fully correspond to the basic Christian commandments. In Christian culture, great importance is attached to reverence for parents, especially mothers. It was the mother’s love that saved Harry Potter from death, and the bright memory of his parents helped the orphan boy in difficult moments of life. Rowling, through the words of the wise Dumbledore, calls mother’s love “ancient magic,” capable of defeating the most powerful evil: “Such a strong love that your mother felt for you leave a mark. If you are loved so deeply, you remain under his protection even when a person loves you dies.” (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 150) This is not to say that Harry Potter was inflamed with love for his enemies. However, he spared his school enemy Draco Malfoy and saved him from death.
Dumbledore and Harry choose the path of kindness and mercy, although they sometimes have to change themselves and suffer defeat. Following the truth almost always involves complete or partial loneliness (Rosado 77). It often happened to Harry that his friends turned away from him, his best friend Ron Weasley left him in a difficult moment, he was a real pariah, rejected among his friends when the guys from all houses ridiculed and mocked him. The English writer’s fairy-tale novels prescribe to be able to endure and humble in the name of a higher justice and the opportunity to become the embodiment of good.
There are several characters in the cycle of novels whose personalities and actions cannot be characterized as entirely positive or negative. Sirius Black is an ambiguous character in which temperament and inner rage combine with deep devotion and loyalty to the main character. Driven by anger and a desire to avenge Peter Pettigrew for betraying Harry Potter’s parents, Black finds the strength to turn to the bright side of his character and refuse to retaliate. Having warm feelings for Potter’s mother and father, Sirius could carry these feelings even despite his hot temper and forced imprisonment in Azkaban prison (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 346). The choice of side in the internal struggle between good and evil can be traced to the wizard’s symbolic ability to turn into a giant dog. Unlike the werewolf Lupine, who cannot control his metamorphosis, Sirius Black chooses his form. The same happens with Black’s inner world – he deliberately chooses the side of good and is ready to give Harry and his friends his life. Moreover, Black decided to become an Animagus – a person capable of transforming into an animal – because of Remus’s friendship.
Having noted the personality of Remus Lupine, it is worth considering his nature in more detail. The lycanthropy disease, which turned the wizard into a monster, accompanied the hero from childhood, which undoubtedly affected his character. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning his participation in the “Marauders” group, whose members led a life secret from Hogwarts’ teachers, accompanied by the misconduct of varying severity (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 512). As the story progresses, readers get to know Lupine better and see that he is a kind, humble, and honest person. His vice did not become a reason to embitter the whole world. On the contrary, Remus is cautious with those around him, as he realizes that his transformations can harm other inhabitants of the magic school.
Studying the struggle between good and evil, Dobby, a house-elf who has been actively interacting with Harry since the second part of the novel cycle, ought to be mentioned. Dobby knows about the danger that threatens Potter and tries to protect the boy with peculiar, but typical for an elf, tricks. He steals letters from friends, drops pudding on the Dursley table so that Harry will be expelled from school, enchants the station platform, and even casts a charm on a Quidditch ball that breaks the protagonist’s arm. Dobby does everything with the best intentions; however, it does apparent harm to the protagonist. Harry cunningly frees the elf from the need to serve the Malfoy family by giving him a sock. Lucius tries to punish Harry; however, Dobby uses elven magic to protect the boy and offers his help (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 489). Harry notes with a smile, “Promise you never to save my life again” (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 489). Throughout the rest of the saga, Dobby continues to help the heroes with his characteristic kindness.
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The conflict between good and evil in the Harry Potter series occurs on external and internal levels. In addition to the war between Lord Voldemort and Professor Dumbledore’s supporters, there is an internal confrontation between many characters. It is worth noting that the presence of Harry Potter has a beneficial effect on many surfaces in work communication, and friendship with him helps his environment to turn the soul into good. Harry continues Dumbledore’s ideas, who devoted his whole life to the correct use of magic and inner cultivation. There are internal conflicts within Potter, especially given the difficult periods of growing up. The way of thinking and actions of the primary character influence the characters actively interacting with him: Sirius Black, Remus Lupine, the elf Dobby, and many others, allowing them to win an inner victory of good over evil.
Plath, James, et al. The 100 Greatest Literary Characters. Rowman & Littlefield, 2019.
Rosado, Tereza. “The Generation(s) of Harry Potter.” Wizards of Their Age: Critical Essays from the Harry Potter Generation, edited by Cecilia Konchar Farr, State U of New York P, 2015, 99, 73−82.
Rowling, Joanne. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Pottermore Publishing, 2015.
Rowling, Joanne. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Pottermore Publishing, 2015.
Rowling, Joanne. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Pottermore Publishing, 2015.